There was much to question and challenge about the District of Columbia’s Metropolitan Police Department’s handling of the mass roundup, the “kettling,” of protesters on Trump’s Inauguration Day. After all, distinguishing between those engaging in destruction and those merely present, or more importantly, present for protected purposes such as reporting on the protest, is the hard job police are paid to do.
And historically, the MPD has been pretty good at handling protests in a constitutionally protective manner, as even ThinkProgress concedes. But not this time.
When black-clad marchers began smashing windows in Washington, D.C., on Inauguration Day, the city’s police force — reputedly the best in the country at upholding protesters’ rights during disruptive demonstrations — went nuclear.
Officers quickly deployed pepper spray, tear gas, and crowd-control grenades of various types. The Metropolitan Police Department opted to “kettle” everyone on the streets nearby the initial anarchist-driven property destruction, something it does not, by reputation, make a habit of doing during protests.
Whether these tactics were justified is one question. When violence erupts, the first course of action is to stop the violence and destruction. Whether this was the best tactic to do so is another matter. Not only were the kettled protesters charged with felonies, but the mass included some folks who didn’t take kindly to being treated like others who engaged in no destruction.
The mass round-up swept the “Antifa” rowdy types together with many peaceful protesters, journalists, and volunteer legal observers who turn out in bright green hats to help uphold First Amendment rights at such events in the capital. After hours of kettling, police arrested more than 200 people. All were initially charged with felonies by the United States Attorney’s office, which continues to pursue the vast majority of those cases.
Curiously, it appears as if the nice folks at Thinkprogress aren’t entirely supportive of the Antifa, although the worst they can say about them is that they’re “rowdy types.” Those darn kidz.
But journalists? Volunteer legal observers(?) in bright green hats? Don’t they have magic powers that distinguish them from the rowdy types and the other poor schmucks who got caught in the kettle? Aren’t they given special passes that protect them from the cops?
One school of thought is that although the journalists and observers may have had a legitimate purpose for being in the crowd, such that even the MPD could figure out that they weren’t the black-clad Antifa engaged in the “rowdiness” of burning the city down, they may also have gotten too close, too supportive, too encouraging, to be able to don the mantle of neutral. Just because you’re a journalist doesn’t mean you aren’t involved with the destruction as well. This is part of the problem that stems from reporters shifting from neutral observers to advocates for “truth,” when it’s acceptable to be part of the “news” as well as reporting on it.
Contrary to what too many assume, being a journalist confers no special powers to engage in criminal conduct with impunity. Journalists have no special protection from their own criminal conduct, if that’s what happened. Then again, if this was nothing more than a mass arrest of everyone in the vicinity, as appears to be the case, being a reporter ought to make it easy on cops and prosecutors to figure out that you aren’t one of the people engaged in violence.
And, indeed, the cases against six reporters were eventually dismissed. But you can beat the rap, and, well, you know the rest.
But the experiences of the lawsuit’s four plaintiffs — independent photojournalist Shay Horse, volunteer legal observer Judah Ariel, and peaceful protesters Elizabeth Lagesse and Milo Gonzalez — suggest that MPD sought physical and emotional retribution on the hundreds of people kettled, the ACLU alleges.
An officer ordered Horse, fellow plaintiff Milo Gonzalez, and three others to take their pants off before grabbing their testicles and then inserting a finger into their anuses while “other officers laughed,” the complaint alleges. Horse is a photojournalist, one of six reporters initially arrested and charged whose cases have been dismissed.
Welcome to the real world, kidz, where the riff-raff live.
“I felt like they were using molestation and rape as punishment. They used those tactics to inflict pain and misery on people who are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty,” Horse said. “It felt like they were trying to break me and the others — break us so that even if the charges didn’t stick, that night would be our punishment.”
Granted, Horse is a photojournalist, though for whom is unclear, and the Daily Beast described him as “photojournalist and activist.” There may be a bit of a conflict inherent in that description, but I digress.
It’s completely understandable that Horse would feel as he does. Who would take lightly the physical violation of their body, the humiliation, the misery inflicted by laughing cops? The only question is whether Horse, the photojournalist and activist, grasps that this wasn’t all about her.
The Supreme Court on Monday ruled by a 5-to-4 vote that officials may strip-search people arrested for any offense, however minor, before admitting them to jails even if the officials have no reason to suspect the presence of contraband.
Horse, meet Florence.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer, writing for the four dissenters, said the strip-searches the majority allowed were “a serious affront to human dignity and to individual privacy” and should be used only when there was good reason to do so.
Justice Breyer said that the Fourth Amendment should be understood to bar strip-searches of people arrested for minor offenses not involving drugs or violence, unless officials had a reasonable suspicion that they were carrying contraband.
Want to guess where people hide contraband when entering jails? Of course this is rape, but it’s got the Supreme Court’s seal of approval, so it’s the good rape, not the bad rape. But they didn’t come up with this just to hurt Horse’s feelings, to molest him as punishment. They molest everyone, and they have long before any photojournalist and activist had the misfortune of finding himself in the kettle.
Welcome to the nasty world of criminal law, where you couldn’t be bothered to be too concerned until it touched your social justice hiney-hole. Too bad you couldn’t take some pictures of that. Too bad you won’t think about it again when it’s no longer your anus that gets the digital cavity search. But arrestees have been going through this for years, and will continue to be raped and molested for no particular reason long after Trump leaves office.